Bruins torch Leafs
They capture fourth straight vs. Toronto
The Bruins are at no end for superlatives. Last night before 17,565 people at TD Garden, they beat Toronto, 4-1. It was their 14th straight game without a regulation loss. It was their fourth win in four games against Toronto. They have tagged losses on James Reimer, Jonas Gustavsson, and Ben Scrivens. They have outscored the Leafs by a 23-6 margin. As expected, they kept Phil Kessel (five shots in 18 minutes 27 seconds of ice time) off the scoresheet.
Even with Pittsburgh on deck tomorrow at the Consol Energy Center, there appears to be no end to the good times for all things Black and Gold.
“I don’t see anybody getting comfortable in there,’’ said coach Claude Julien, whose charges have compiled 27 of 28 possible points in their last 14 games. “That’s great to see.’’
Last night, the Bruins dispatched their opponents in a cold, ruthless, businesslike fashion. They stretched a 2-1 third-period lead into a three-goal cushion. The defensemen activated at the proper times to turn scoring chances into goals. Tuukka Rask had to make only 21 stops.
In the third, they dominated the Leafs during a 90-second stretch. The Bruins, up 3-1 at the time, didn’t score on the shift. But even a goal wouldn’t have indicated how smart, tough, and efficient they were during the overwhelming stretch.
“It was a big shift for our team,’’ said David Krejci, who initiated most of the pressure along with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. “The next line, they followed and did the same thing. Once we get the lead with one or two goals in the third period, we don’t want to sit back. We want to keep going forward. That’s what we did in the third.’’
The first line was mostly responsible for trapping the Leafs in their zone. They won puck battles. They outmuscled the Leafs in the danger areas. At 11:10, after Toronto iced the puck, coach Ron Wilson had no choice but to call his timeout to give his ragged lads the chance to pump air back into their depleted lungs.
“That was a real good shift,’’ said Julien. “I thought they did a great job. David came off as the third man high and we were able to put a fresh guy out there to sustain pressure. That was a real good shift for us in the third period. Horts and Looch are such strong individuals that they’re hard to knock off the puck. If they feel like they want to protect the puck and be strong on it, we can certainly spend a lot of time in the offensive zone playing that way.’’
In the second period, 48 seconds after Krejci gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead, Mikhail Grabovski tied the score with a sharp-angle slapper past Rask.
But within this run, the Bruins have repeatedly stood tall when opponents have pushed back. Later in the second, the Bruins scored the winning goal. Andrew Ference made the proper read by pinching down the right wing to keep the cycle humming in the offensive zone. Because of Ference’s pinch, Rich Peverley got the puck and had time to consider his options. Benoit Pouliot was stationed in front with his stick down and ready. Beyond Pouliot, Peverley saw Chris Kelly cutting to the far post. Peverley’s cross-ice pass went past Pouliot and onto Kelly’s tape. The No. 3 center made no mistake, burying his shot at 13:11 for the go-ahead goal.
“Pevs is a very intelligent hockey player,’’ said Kelly (10 goals, second-most on the team). “He skates very well and sees the ice well. I’ve been rewarded on several occasions because of his good play and heads-up play. It’s a pleasure to play with him. He takes draws on the right side. We interchange. We both play center. It’s made my job a lot easier. It’s been fun right now.’’
One of the qualities that Julien has liked during the rocket ride up the Eastern Conference has been his team’s third-period play. The Bruins are not sitting back, protecting leads, and waiting for their goalies to make game-saving stops. Instead, they’re applying most of the pressure.
Last night, down 2-1 after 40 minutes, Toronto should have been opening up and taking more shots in hopes of tying the score. But the Bruins outshot the Leafs by an 11-4 margin in the third, with two of those pucks beating Reimer (26 saves).
At one end, Johnny Boychuk wiped out Clarke MacArthur with an open-ice clock-cleaning. Later in the shift, after the puck squirted out of a net-front scrum, Boychuk had a chance to rip a slapper on goal. Boychuk let a shot fly that sailed over Reimer’s glove at 3:06, making it a 3-1 game.
Later in the third, following some cycling by his linemates in the left corner, Horton had a clean look from the high slot. Horton whistled a wrister through traffic that beat Reimer at 14:26 to seal the win.
“I thought that as the game went on, we were better and better,’’ Zdeno Chara said. “We were just controlling the puck. We were making smart plays without taking some risks. We were basically controlling the game from that point.’’